It’s still very early in the minor league season, not quite three full weeks into the season.  Despite that, there are some signs that we can look to and get some hope that some players are making improvements based on what they had done last season. Or in some cases, guys who are still struggling with similar issues they had last season.

Taylor Sparks is struggling right now for the Daytona Tortugas, hitting just .188/.268/.219. Despite that, we are seeing some good signs from Sparks. Last April he managed to walk just three times and he struck out 30 times. That’s a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio for those counting at home. With six days remaining this April he’s already walked seven times to go along with 17 strikeouts. The hits aren’t falling yet, but his approach seems to be much stronger this season, at least early on.

Amir Garrett is one of the top prospects in the organization, so it’s not necessarily a surprise that he’s performing well, but he’s been lights out for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos through four starts. He’s thrown 24.2 innings this April with a 1.46 ERA, no home runs allowed, four walks and 25 strikeouts.

Jermaine Curtis isn’t exactly a prospect of note, but the 28-year-old has been the best hitter in the organization this April. After last night, where he had two more hits for the Louisville Bats, the right handed hitter is now sitting in Triple-A with a .459/.588/.541 line with eight walks and just three strikeouts. He’s about as locked in as a hitter can be right now.

Jose Peraza was the Reds big offseason acquisition. He was a high contact rate hitter with big time speed. The 21-year-old is hitting .274/.328/.339 for the Triple-A Louisville Bats right now. It’s been an interesting start for Peraza, who has five walks and 11 strikeouts this season in 70 plate appearances. That’s good for a walk rate of 7.1% and a strikeout rate of 15.7%. On their own, those rates are solid, but for Peraza they both are outliers to his career. Since leaving A-ball, Peraza has had a walk rate well under 4% and his strikeout rate has been under 10%. His walk rate has nearly doubled and his strikeout rate is up nearly 50% from the previous rates from Double-A and Triple-A. Also just as surprising is that despite his outstanding speed, he has just one stolen base. He’s been caught stealing three times this year as well, but none of those actually were on attempted steals. He was picked off all three times, but just broke for second when the pitcher threw over.

2014 1st round pick Nick Howard isn’t having any more success in Daytona than he had last season. In the 2015 season he walked 50 batters in 38.0 innings before hitting the disabled list around mid-season. In 4.1 innings this year he’s walked 10 batters with just two strikeouts.

Join the conversation! 30 Comments

  1. The change in Peraza’s BB and K rates tell me that he is taking more pitches and/or getting deeper into counts. It is hard to walk or whiff when you only see 2 pitches.

    If so, that is certainly a good thing, but he will still need to learn the nuances of hitting in deeper counts.

    Amir Garrett, off another great outing last night, is coming soon to a theater near you.

  2. Thanks Doug.
    No true feeling to this season until we see the progress of the pitchers. Stephenson already has shown he will be here soon. And here to stay.
    Garrett dominating. Right now Rookie Davis seems like a find for a damaged Chapman.
    When Stephenson and Reed arrive… I would like to see what Garrett and either Davis or Travieso do at Louisville.
    Going to have to see who is close so we can perhaps flip a healthy DeSclafani for a young bat. His health seems to be a key.
    Doug… you are watching Winker as much as you can…. are you concerned about lack of power?

  3. Another big reason to keep up with your site…
    Reed and Bailey going tonight.

  4. What the heck is wrong with Nick Howard?

    • channeling his inner Steve Blass

    • Unfortunately I think that Wizeman has it right. He’s got Steve Blass disease, Rick Ankiel syndrome, the Yips – whatever you want to call it.

      • Sometimes once it’s in a guy’s head, it stays there. I feel bad for the kid.

      • That’s a huge miss on a #1 pick. Frustrating.

        • It is, but no one on Earth could have predicted this would happen. it’s not as if they drafted Jason Neighborgall in the 1st round and hoped to fix him. This is just one of those real strange circumstances. Can’t blame the Reds for how it turned out – it was impossible to see coming.

        • They didn’t try to “fix” Howard but they did try to change him by making him a starter which he had not really been (at the college level) except for an abandoned effort (13 starts) during his sophomore year.

          Is it really just coincidence that the two number one picks of the Reds over the last decade whose careers seem to be most stymied and uncertain at this point were two way college players who closed for major programs that the Reds subsequently tried to morph into starters?

          • I don’t get spending a #1 pick on a player and then trying to get him to do something he hasn’t done before.

  5. Garrett has the look, but he gave up some deep balls in the game I saw him pitch in Biloxi, lucky for the wind off the gulf or he would have at least 2 homeruns against him. He’s got a ways to go, but I’ll be excited to watch him take the hill every 5 days.

  6. Nick Howard certainly seems like he will be a bust at this point. However, it’s not a given that 1st round picks even make it to the bigs, much less become stars.

    We’ve actually done fairly well with our first round picks recently, a far cry from the days of Ty Howington, Chris Gruler, and Jeremy Sowers. Since 2004:

    2004 – Homer Bailey
    2005 – Jay Bruce
    2006 – Drew Stubbs
    2007 – Devin Mesoraco
    2008 – Yonder Alonso
    2009 – Mike Leake
    2010 – Yasmani Grandal

    2011 (Stephenson), 2012 (Travieso), and 2013 (Ervin) all look promising too. Which makes Howard’s struggles all the more noticeable.

  7. I don’t know if you know the answer to this question, but with the Reds having such a hitter-friendly park, why doesn’t the Reds organization put an emphasis on their young pitchers learning to throw a sinker down in the minors so that they can be a little more effective in their home ML park whenever they arrive? I’ve wonder this for years, but with so many new pitchers for the Reds making their MLB debut last year and this year it has shined a bit more light on that for me.

    • A lot of the new guys are from other organizations. That could have something to do with it. I would think that they’d have a minor league philosophy of generally trying to keep the ball on the ground but I honestly don’t know.

    • Not everyone can throw a sinker. And a sinker tends to miss less bats, and more contact, even if it’s on the ground, isn’t ideal. Obviously, you want grounders over flies because the damage is just less because they don’t go for extra-base hits as often – but they do go for hits more often.

      Look at the best pitchers in the league. For the most part they aren’t groundball pitchers, they are guys who miss bats and don’t walk anyone. Those are the kind of guys you need to develop – guys who miss bats and don’t walk guys. Of course, those guys are rare, too, and not exactly the easiest to develop either.

      • Thanks. I’ve been curious about that for a few years now.
        Chris Welsh put a good perspective on Syndergaard’s slider last night that comes in at 92 mph. He said, “think of it as a 92 mph fastball with all that movement.” Hard to hit.

  8. what position does Curtis play? Could we see him up here soon?

    • He’s an infielder by trade, but he’s played some outfield too. He’s perhaps a guy they would look at as a utility player, but the problem is De Jesus has no options available so that spot probably isn’t opening up.

  9. I’d like to see a scouting review where we match the prospects with the lead scout who recommended him. Seems like upper tier teams like the Dodgers, St. Louis and the Mets have better scouts than the Reds. Staunton was there for the taking in ’07 instead we draft Mesaroca who had questionable defensive skills and TJ surgery. When was the last time we drafted a big time talent in the outfield? Does it go back to Kal Daniels in the ’80s?

    • Dunn had a pretty good career. Bruce had some fine seasons. Neither were/are a Trout or a Harper but I’d call all those All-Star appearances and Silver Sluggers pretty solid talent.

    • Scouting is important, but player development is the key. My guess is the assessments of the Red’s scouts are often similar to Cardinal scouts. However, the Cardinals invest huge sums in player development…instructors, nutritionist, weight training etc. and the Reds have not.

      The Cardinals understand that 10 million invested in player development yields tens of millions in payroll savings. Hopefully, the Reds now understand that development isn’t a cost, but an investment.

  10. Do you think the Reds will consider converting Howard back to the infield if there’s no improvement?

  11. Obv Leake went to Arizona State but it seems like the Reds almost always draft high school kids in the 1st round? Call me crazy but I think I could make a better judgement of talent with a kid in his 20s with 2-3 years of college ball then some 18 yr old that just got out of his prom? Looks like we’ll have a top 5 pick again so it would be nice to get the best college hitter available so they could help Votto before he turns 42?

    • For example….who are Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek? The 1-2 picks from the 2014 draft….both hs pitchers. They might end up being great but Carlos Rodon (3rd pick) is already starting for the White Sox and my boy Kyle Schwarber (Indiana) will resume hitting moonshots next year and he draws walks too….if they can find somewhere for him to play. He might be a DH in the end or 1B?

    • What??
      Maybe back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. This is the Reds first 3 rounds of the last 4 drafts I posted yesterday. Reds have recently been looking to the college ranks in their first few rounds. That wasn’t always the case.
      2012: Reds: Travieso, Winker, Gelawich, Rahier, Langfield. (HS/HS/Col/HS/Col)
      2013: Reds: Ervin, Lorenzen, K. Franklin, Armstrong. (Col/Col/HS/HS)
      2014: Reds: Howard, Blandino, Sparks, Strahan. (Col/Col/Col/Col)
      2015: Reds: T. Stephenson, Santillan, Rainey, Trahan. (HS/HS/Col/Col)

    • This is just me talking out loud here, but I think that generally speaking, the most high upside talent comes from the high school ranks. Bryce Harper technically went to college, but he was a 17-year-old when drafted. Trout – high school. Carlos Correa – HS. Clayton Kershaw – HS. Obviously a college guy is probably going to be ready quicker simply because they are older – but that isn’t always the case. The truly elite high school guys are in the big leagues at 20.

      High schoolers are tougher to evaluate though. The pitchers and hitters both face such limited other elite competition that you are projecting a lot more with them. Limiting yourself to one of the other of course is a bad idea. Just listen to your scouts. You pay them to get this stuff right – and by and large the Reds have absolutely nailed their 1st rounders for a very long time (especially compared to the rest of baseball). At #2 in the draft, the high schooler you take should be a quick moving guy. That isn’t always the case, injuries happen and sometimes development doesn’t quite go as planned – but this high up you should be getting an elite kind of talent and shouldn’t limit yourself to high school or college.

      With that said, Buckley and crew haven’t had many Top 10 picks, but when they have, they’ve gone with college guys. Going in, I expect that to stay the same, but they are smart people. If there’s a high school guy on the board that stands out above the college guys – they will take him.

      • Doug .. I read your piece on Louisville’s Cory Ray .. I think you nailed it .. He looks like MLB talent , but is he worth the overall second pick in the June Draft .. Having said that , who are the standout High school Bats (IE position players) available this year ? Are there really any college bats that might be preferable over the long range potential of a “elite” High school position player ?

  12. Doug, if Groome is available at #2, do you think the Reds snap him up, or do they play it safe and take Nick Senzel?

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